C'right Office has no authority to repeal rates, groups say

The National Music Publishers’ Assn. and the Songwriters’ Guild of America have petitioned the U.S. Copyright Office to reject requests by the record industry for a moratorium on certain royalties for online music distribution until clear rules can be hashed out.

The Recording Industry Assn. of America is seeking to roll back mechanical royalties (administered by the NMPA) on interactive music streaming for publishers, pending a ruling on whether or not those royalties apply to the technology, the publishers’ orgs contended.

The NMPA and SGA argued that the Copyright Office doesn’t have the right to repeal royalty structures, only to determine what rates should be paid. To that end, NMPA topper Edward P. Murphy called on the office to establish a Copyright Arbitration Royalty Panel to set a fair rate.

Normally, the NMPA collects mechanical royalties for publishers when record companies make copies of a composition, either on CD or through an Internet download. But at the crux of the latest debate is whether, and how much, the org should also be paid for online music streams.

The labels have said that streaming doesn’t merit a mechanical, since in most cases no permanent physical copy is made.

But Murphy argued that interactive streaming services that let users listen to songs on demand are deriving extra value from the composer’s product.

RIAA reps did not return calls seeking comment.

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more